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Kentucky Wildcats (10) @ Florida Gators: Open Game Thread

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Here we go, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. This is the biggest game of the year, and it happens on the road. Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats, 16-5 [4-3] invade the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida to take on the SEC East leading Florida Gators.

Game particulars are as follows, courtesy of, as always:

Kentucky @ Florida
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | Florida Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Sat., Feb. 5, 9:00 p.m. ET
Coverage TV: ESPN
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio
Online Video via ESPN3
Text Updates
Location Stephen C. O'Connell Center
Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators come into this game with a big overtime win over the Vanderbilt Commodores in the comfy confines of the O-Dome. The Gators are not playing terrific basketball right now, but in typical fashion for an experienced team with talent, they are winning their games, both pretty and ugly.

The Wildcats, conversely, are coming off a loss to the Mississippi Rebels in Oxford, and that loss represents the third road setback in four SEC attempts for Kentucky. Because of that, and because of the Gators' leading position in the SEC, this game has become huge for Kentucky, far bigger than a regular-season game ought to be at this point in the season. Lose this, and Kentucky falls two games behind the Gators and three behind the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Keys to the game:

  • Kentucky must defend like crazy. The Gators are a good offensive team, but they are soft. If Kentucky can bring their maximum defensive intensity to this game, the Gators will be in trouble.
  • Attack Florida's guards. The Gator guards are very good offensively, but they are undersized and not very good defensively. If Kentucky can post them up, as they should be able to do, it would be a major advantage.
  • Play the pick and roll well. Josh Harrellson has done a terrific job with the pick and roll this year, as have Kentucky's guards. Billy Donovan runs the pick and roll on every half-court offensive series without exception. If we play it well, the Gators will have to resort to plan B, which is never as good as plan A.
  • Stay out of foul trouble. Florida's guards get to the rim really well, and Erving Walker in particular is a major threat to do so. Kentucky must force the Gator guards to shoot challenged threes and try to keep them out of the paint.
  • Get Macklin in foul trouble. Of all the Gators, Macklin is the only one who is really prone to foul trouble, and he is by far their most important offensive player.

Keys to a Florida victory:

  • Force Kentucky to shoot threes. Kentucky must have a balanced attack in this game, and if they are forced to shoot too many threes, it is a Gator advantage.
  • Get Kentucky's big men in foul trouble. Kentucky has known depth issues, and if Florida can get Jones or Harrellson on the bench early, Macklin can thrive in the middle.
  • Take good shots. Florida has an unfortunate tendency to fall in love with Boynton and Walker on the perimeter, and forget about the rest of the game.
  • Turn Kentucky over. Ole Miss' aggressive defense resulted in 11 steals. If Florida can manage that many, they will very likely win easily.

This game is beyond any adjectives at this point. Kentucky needs this win like the deepest depths of winter needs the spring (or so says the song, anyway). For the Gator perspective, be sure to visit SBNation's excellent Florida site, Alligator Army.

This is a big game. We need this one. Let's git 'r done. Go, 'Cats!